Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca strides into the yard of his neighbors trailed by his young daughter. An altercation ensues, replete with screaming and weeping. Sonya Gregorio grips her 25-year-old son Frank in a tight embrace and refuses to let go; family members try both verbally and physically to prevent the cop from taking Frank away. The drawn-out scene comes to a head when Nuezca’s child shouts at Sonya Gregorio, 52, to shut up, “my father is a policeman!” The mother retorts: “I don’t care!” Whereupon Nuezca, unmindful of various people filming the bitter argument, swears at the mother, reaches for his
9 mm pistol and shoots her once in the head, then the son twice, and then the mother again as she lay on the ground. Neither one is armed.
The killings that occurred at 5:10 p.m. on Dec. 20 in Paniqui, Tarlac, ushered in Christmas week—a distressingly apt illustration of what life has become in these parts. Even if Nuezca’s child deletes her own video of the killings, perhaps in a shocked (or maybe not) reaction to the turn of events, others have spread far and wide through social media, recording the dark deed for all time. There is simply no way Nuezca, 46, can get away with murder.
Or can he? A culture of impunity has so permeated the police force that the phrase is now bromide, used ever so constantly to protest police crimes and misdemeanors but generally denied or ignored by an administration that coddles killer cops. Among other cases, the killing by police in November 2016 of Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, then in jail and awaiting trial on drug charges, is unforgettable: The National Bureau of Investigation called it a rubout and not a shootout as claimed by the 19-member police team that killed Espinosa and another inmate while supposedly serving a warrant in the dead of night. Nonetheless, President Duterte said he would not let the officers go to jail, pointing out that the NBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) were under him. The DOJ forthwith downgraded the charges from murder to homicide and allowed bail for them. In July 2017, then Philippine National Police chief Bato dela Rosa announced that the officers had been reinstated and the administrative case against them resolved—even qualifying them for promotion.
A resident of Paniqui and assigned to the Parañaque City Police Crime Laboratory, Nuezca fled the scene on a motorcycle and surrendered himself and his firearm more than an hour later to police in Rosales, Pangasinan. The Paniqui police now have him in custody; he has since been charged with two counts of murder. Expectedly—the citizenry still to be fully inured to murder—outrage over the killings has erupted, exacerbated by reports that Nuezca holds a record of grave misconduct (homicide) and serious neglect of duty cases that have since been dropped or dismissed, as well as 31 days of suspension meted out for refusing to undergo a drug test and leaving the testing area without official clearance. Hardly a pristine record on which to raise a daughter, for her to take profound pride in.
Malacañang mouthpiece Harry Roque blithely says Nuezca is just some rotten guy—“isang bugok”—in the police force. But of such stuff are many PNP members apparently made these days, and highly paid, too, earning higher than the medical frontliners who risk their lives in the service of other Filipinos afflicted by COVID-19, and who have to beg for their measly hazard pay. We mean those who kidnapped Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo, executed him, burned his corpse, flushed his ashes down the toilet—and still demanded ransom from his widow. Those who accused teenager Kian delos Santos of pushing drugs, then shooting him dead as he pleaded that he still had an exam the next day to study for. Those who, per the NBI, murdered mentally disturbed ex-soldier Winston Ragos and planted a gun in his bag after an argument over supposed violation of quarantine rules. The recently arrested Taguig cop who extorted P15,000 from a small businessman purportedly listed as a drug offender and marked for “neutralization.” The killers of thousands of petty pushers/users under the aegis of the war on drugs. Ad nauseam.
The argument between Nuezca and the Gregorios was said to stem from a private matter: the use of a “boga” (makeshift cannon) as well as right-of-way issues. But as former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay correctly notes, “the use of a firearm and the mindset to kill without hesitation are political, not private, matters.”
This is the political reality—the President ordering lawmen to shoot quickly in a speech on Dec. 3: “I’m telling … the uniformed personnel, do your duty. Do it in accordance with law pero be alert and be wise. Alam mo, kaunting pagkakamali lang, barilin mo na.”
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